July 22, 2010 Subject:
Review from Continuo's Weblog
In a way, the so-called Plunderphonics movement that spread across North America in the 1980s was merely updating music with experiments already familiar from the visual arts and literature and writers like Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, William Burroughs or William Gaddis, for whom collage was a natural way to grasp reality. This implied borrowing from other people’s work, but also a total lack of prejudices toward the origin of the material, be it contemporary mainstream media, well-known Classics, advertising, legal stuff, b-movies, etc. For the Young Turks named Negativland, The Tape Beatles or John Oswald, the juxtaposition of high art with crap was part of the fun, and the question of legality and copyright infringement arised later, almost as an afterthought – a painful one, admittedly, for those actually prosecuted. This Joseph Nechvatal cassette is precisely part of this exuberant reuse, Garbage in, Garbage out strategy called Plunderphonics.
♫ Sleep was Joseph Nechvatal‘s first cassette, issued 1983, the same year he co-founded the Tellus cassette series with Claudia Gould and Carol Parkinson. It was released in New York on Al Margolis’ Sound of Pig cassette label, who released hundreds of tapes during the 1980s. Sleep is entirely made of audio debris and found sounds sourced from radio, TV, movie soundtracks and commercial music, with the occasional addition of synthesizer. Joseph says he started collecting material for this tape as early as 1979, yet the music excerpts mostly sound 1983 era. To listen to Sleep is to put your ear at one end of a sonic kaleidoscope and hear the constantly changing patterns of its endless aural collages. Side 1 is a relentless, hilarious mashup of the most ridiculous sonic signatures from the ca. 1983 period: aimless guitar solos, break beats, Bollywood films, harpsichord at the wrong speed, talk shows, etc. After two minutes of the same material, Side 2 suddenly turns to a barely audible murmuring man speaking a few words on loop mode for the remaining 20mns. A relief from the preceding audio litter or mere technical difficulties, according to point of view.